Forget About Climate Change, Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Has 'Major Direct Health Benefits'


Air pollution in Tehran, photo: Hamid Najafi via flickr.

Forget about climate change for one moment, a series of six papers appearing in The Lancet says that reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases has "major direct health benefits." The papers examine case studies in electricity generation, household energy use, transportation and food and agriculture and the health implications for each in both high- and low-income nations:Basically since a major part of cutting greenhouse gas emissions is switching to non-fossil fuel sources of energy, that will have corresponding air pollution benefits by reducing ground-level ozone, as well as fine particulate matter.

Black Carbon Pollution Causes 2.5 Million Deaths Annually
In terms of the latter, one paper analyses 18 years of data on the long-term health effects of black carbon pollution -- the result of older diesel engines, biomass cooking fires, and the like -- and finds that in addition to the global warming potential, this sort of particulate pollution is responsible for nearly 2.5 million deaths per year globally.

Speaking on the implications of the research, co-author on three of the papers Kirk Smith of UC Berkeley said,

Policymakers need to know that if they exert their efforts in certain directions, they can obtain important public health benefits as well as climate benefits.

Climate change threatens us all, but its impact will likely be greatest on the poorest communities in every country. Thus, it has been called the most regressive tax in human history. Carefully choosing how we reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have the added benefit of reducing global health inequalities.


Black Carbon Pollution Eases Quickly Once Source Removed
Recent research has shown that short-lived components of global warming such as black carbon pollution may have a much great effect than previously believed -- and may even be accelerating melting of Himalayan glaciers as fine particulate matter coats even remote regions. The good news is that this sort of pollution ceases to have an effect comparatively quickly once the source of pollution in removed.

More: The Lancet.com - Health and Climate Change
Global Climate Change & Health
Tick-Borne Diseases May Spread More Easily with Global Warming
Climate Change Too Abstract For You? Dengue Fever Could Spread to 28 US States
Climate Change Already Expanding Tropics, Sub-Tropical Arid Zones and Disease

Tags: Air Pollution | Carbon Emissions | Global Climate Change